I know I’ve been living in Chamonix long enough now that I should’ve already done this, but this week I managed to get to the Vallee Blanche for the first time. I’ll admit, before I actually went up there, the idea of skiing from the Aguille du Midi was a bit on the off putting side.
For once though, I’m happy to say that I was wrong. Skiing that glacier was the best thing I’ve done on a pair of skis, and I’m not ashamed to say it. I did come out of it with a few small notes though…
Make sure you know what you’re getting into
We’re not talking about absailing down the front of cliffs to get to that sweet sweet powder (unless you know how to absail, and you want to do that), but the Vallee Blanche is pretty far from your average red run. There are crevasses covered in snow bridges, boulders the size of buildings and areas of the route that seem to funnel the wind like nobody’s business. If you feel like you’re out of your depth, ring mountain rescue; it doesn’t cost anything to get a helicopter ride out of there.
Wear a harness
That thing will save your life if you fall into a crevasse. Even if you’ve skied the glacier a thousand times and nothing’s happened, it’s always a good idea to make sure you’re all kitted out. Just in case. A guy stops a few feet short of the group at the wrong point of the trail, and he ends up thirty feet down and relying on his harness to get him out of an icy pit of death without injury.
Enjoy the scenery
Yes, there’s fresh powder underfoot that feels like pixie dust, but that’s no reason to go rushing down the mountain without paying attention to your surroundings. The Vallee Blanche is one of the most spectacular trails in the world, and like Ferris Bueller once said; “if you don’t stop and look around every once in a while, you might miss it.”
Plus, the altitude up there is like a kick in the teeth. Those photo breaks are the best time you’ll get to catch your breath. Besides, you’ll need the photographic proof to brag to your friends later.